icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-email icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-print icon-rss icon-search icon-stumbleupon icon-twitter icon-arrow-right icon-user Skip to content
Senior Correspondent

Q.  Do older people have more body odor?  

It seems that seniors do stink more than younger people. Aren't we lucky?

A Japanese study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that “2-Nonenal,” a recently found substance in human body odor, tends to increase with aging.

The body odor of subjects between the ages of 26 and 75 was analyzed. The researchers found that 2-Nonenal, which has an unpleasant greasy and grassy odor, was detected only in subjects 40 or older.

So, what causes body odor (aka B.O.)? Most often, it's the bacterial breakdown of sweat that causes an odor. Perspiration, itself, is practically odorless.

Sweating helps maintain your body temperature, hydrates your skin and balances your body fluids. There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands are located over most of your body. Apocrine glands develop in hairy sections of your body.

Eccrine glands secrete perspiration that is composed primarily of water and salt. Apocrine glands secrete a fatty sweat. The bacterial breakdown of apocrine sweat is what usually causes an odor.

Over-the-counter (OTC) antiperspirants and deodorants are effective cures for most body odor. There are prescription antiperspirants if the OTC products don't work. 

Antiperspirants contain aluminium-based compounds that temporarily block sweat pores. Deodorants  eliminate odor but not perspiration; they're usually alcohol-based and turn your skin acidic, making it less attractive to bacteria. Deodorants often contain fragrances, too, to mask odor.

You can reduce body odor in the following ways:

  • Shower or bathe every day. This reduces the bacteria on your skin.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly after showering. Microorganisms love moisture between your toes.
  • Wear clothing–especially socks–made of cotton and wool; avoid synthetics. Moisture-wicking athletic clothing is good when you are exercising and sweating a lot. Women should wear pantyhose with cotton soles. Change socks at least once a day.
  • Wear shoes made of leather. Natural materials allow your feet to breathe and stay dry. Also rotate your shoes so they have enough time to dry.
  • Go barefoot when you can, or remove your shoes occasionally.
  • Apply antiperspirants nightly. 
  • Consider relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or biofeedback. These can help you control the stress that triggers perspiration.
  • Change your diet. If foods or beverages cause your perspiration to smell, consider eliminating them. Avoid foods with strong odors, such as garlic and onions.

Stay Up to Date

Sign up for articles by Fred Cicetti and other Senior Correspondents.

Latest Stories

Choosing Senior Living
Love Old Journalists

Our Mission

To amplify the voices of older adults for the good of society

Learn More